BEIRUT: Prime Minister-designate Tammam Salam ruled out in comments published Friday the possibility of using any future National Dialogue session as a forum for the formation of the next government as recently proposed by Speaker Nabih Berri.
“The formation of the government cannot wait for the [National] Dialogue table,” Salam told the local newspaper Al-Akhbar. “The dialogue table is not the [right] place.”
“The only place to discuss a government formation is with the prime minister-designate and the president only. Anything other than that would be deemed unconstitutional,” he said.
“We heard yesterday from Berri that all he envisages from dialogue is to facilitate the [government] formation,” Salam said. “There is nothing wrong if this dialogue would facilitate [the formation].”
Salam, however, believed that the topics for discussion during all-party talks “are crucial, decisive and accurate, and may require a long time before an agreement is reached.”
Communication between political rivals, Salam said, would help the emergence of a new government.
Berri has proposed a five-day conclave of National Dialogue sessions attended by March 8 and March 14 leaders, in addition to Salam to address divisive issues, including the makeup and policy statement of a new government, a national defense strategy, means to end Lebanese intervention in Syria and a new electoral law.
A delegation from Berri’s parliamentary bloc has met with leaders and officials from both sides of the political divide to brief them on the speaker’s initiative, which has won praise from Hezbollah and its March 8 allies and the Progressive Socialist Party but drawn criticism from the rival March 14 camp.
Head of the parliamentary Future Bloc, MP Fouad Siniora, expressed Thursday skepticism about Berri’s proposal being able to make inroads in the political crisis.
“I don’t think the initiative will achieve a breakthrough in the political deadlock,” he told The Daily Star.
Lebanese Forces leader Samir Geagea was also skeptical, saying Berri’s initiative would lead nowhere.
Some Future Movement and March 14 politicians have rejected Berri’s proposal, viewing it as an infringement on the prerogatives of the president and the prime minister-designate.
Berri said in remarks published Friday that all political leaders have agreed to sit at the Nation Dialogue table except Geagea. Berri said Geagea had informed the delegation from his Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc that there was no chance of success in light of past experiences.
Nevertheless, Berri said the Future Movement “did not reject dialogue,” pointing out that some Future Movement lawmakers have welcomed his initiative while others have suggested ideas regarding the terms of the initiative.
“For my part, I welcome discussions; and I will meet with [former] Prime Minister Fouad Siniora prior to my meeting with the President [Michel Sleiman], which could take place before or after his trip to the United Nations,” Berri told Al-Joumhouriya newspaper.
Geagea responded to Berri, asking him to convene a dialogue session “since everyone has supported the initiative and agreed to sit down at the dialogue table.”
“We will approve everything they agree on in absentia under the roof of the Lebanese Constitution and the laws in force," Geagea told the local Al-Markazia news agency.